2022 Reflections, 2023 Goals

- 35 minute read

2022 Reflections, 2023 Goals

In many ways, my life feels like the swell of an ocean. I am the callow surfer, making every effort to stay onboard as life’s waves lift and carry me away. At times the waters are unpredictable and challenging. Yet, every so often my momentum is just right, and I embrace the ride.

This year brought waves of immeasurable joy, in all sorts of forms. I explored more of the country, got to see highlights of the lives of my closest friends, and climbed some of my biggest objectives together with some more of my closest friends. Shan and I spent much of the year planning our own wedding, which turned out to be a perfect weekend for us.

The rest of this post details more of my trips and events over 2022, chronologically by month.

February; 31 on the 395

I got to spend my birthday weekend at Smith Rock under soaring eagles and a blazing sun. It was an uncharacteristically warm weekend for February in Central Oregon, and we welcomed it.

The next weekend, Chris, Jason, and I hopped in a car and drove South towards Bishop. We stopped in Tahoe and met up with Edward and Barry for my biggest ski day in five years. We also hit up some classic Tahoe boulders, or at least any that peaked out of the fields of snow.

At Bishop we ran around the Happys and got a lot of bouldering mileage in, notably Black Magic V3 and Every Color You Are V6. I’ll have to return to them both for actual send, but projecting them with Jason and Chris was a great experience of its own.

March; Red Rock Canyon: The Sickness.

The Send Train returned to Red Rock in March, this time with a bigger crew and much bigger objectives. Unfortunately, I picked up a stomach bug right at the start of the trip and decommissioned myself for much of the week. Regardless, I made it work. I tried extra hard and had a memorable trip running around the desert canyons with a crew full of stoke.

Some highlights from the trip:

April; The Granite of Leavenworth;

In 2022, Shan and I made a lot of trips to Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Our first such trip was to Leavenworth, a quaint little town nestled at the confluence of the Wenatchee River and Icicle Creek. Leavenworth is a tourist theme town modeled after a Bavarian village, and for climbers it hosts a remarkable selection of boulders tucked away in the forested riverways and granite hills.

We stayed in a minimalist cabin that only had a couple cots in it, and Cedar, Shan, and I hilariously held together for warmth through the freezing night. I got to see Shan get more comfortable with outdoor bouldering with a send of Sunny and Steep V2, and I was able to surprise myself with a flash of the Real Thing V4. We got humbled by a few more climbs, and then had a nice time wandering around the Bavarian village and eating brats. The Cascades held something special for me, and I looked forward to returning to this range over and over through the year.

The Green of Austin;

Later that month, Chris and I jumped on a plane to Austin for Matt’s bachelor party. Austin, Texas was a city that burned bright and bold, a delightful contrast to the moody gloom of Cascadia. And quite a bit more green than I’d imagined. The emerald and shamrock hues matched the lively intensity of the city. Pizza, golf, board games, beer, barbecue, kart racing. A nightlife that felt like a kaleidoscope of music and revelry. Above all it was a chance for some quality bro time, something that is hard to come by these days and something that I’ve missed from my 20’s.

May; Leavenworth;

My May mirrored my April with another visit to Leavenworth, this time with a group of the Send Train guys. I racked up some volume on granite and also got to see Chris and Pat put down Footless Traverse, their first V5.

I learned of the Chinook saying “Skookum La Metsin”, which means strong medicine.

“To discover its full meaning linger a moment beside the swift waters of the Wenatchee River. Relax and enjoy a short walk along the trail. You will find this indeed strong medicine.”


We said good bye to Lauren’s four-legged friend, Ollie. I pored over my sweet memories of him, pained by the shortness of life while at the same time grateful for the burst of light that he brought to our world.

Pennsylvania and the Gilkeys

Later that month, Chris and Shan and I jumped on another plane, this time to Pennsylvania, where we would head over to the charming town of Lancaster. I appreciated the air of history, the farm-fresh food, my first time seeing the Amish folk, and again reuniting with the bros and a cast of Hooligans. I was honored to witness Matt and Amber’s wedding by Matt’s side as a groomsman. The day was joyous and radiant and we danced until the very last song. Matt made some perfect picks for music for the dance, which for me was a nice reminder of our friendship.

June; The Valley;

I got to see El Cap for the first time in June. Nick, Lucas, and I drove overnight and arrived at El Cap at 6am, then we got so stoked that we grabbed our gear and ran over to the Royal Arches and started up Serenity-Sons 10d. This resulted in quite a memorable first climb in the Valley.

After a heroic runout first lead by Nick, the sun popped out and blasted us with its June heat. I could barely climb let alone help with the leads, and we quickly ran out of water. Lucas had gotten us nearly to the top before deciding we should avoid heat exhaustion and turn back. We chugged bottles of gatorade right there in the Village Store, then later enjoyed some Hazy beers and a salmon dinner and then realized that we never even brushed our teeth that morning. Too stoked.

More highlights from my first time in the Valley:

The Redwood Coast;

For Summer Solstice, Shan and I returned to the Redwood Coast, another place I hold dear. A cast of friends joined me on this trip, just as they did three years ago. I recognized and appreciated the serendipitous turnings of fate.

More highlights:

The Armadillos;

We topped off our June by attending Lucas and Liz’s lovely wedding in Portland. New friends and old friends, dancing and being merry. I appreciated the opportunity to witness such a high moment in our friends’ lives. The perfectness of the day was something that Shan and I looked forward to for our wedding.

July; The Picnic;

I set out to roam across Wyoming for the third year in a row. Shan and I drove out and found Chris, EQ, and Cat in Jackson. We prepared to support Chris on his go at the Grand Teton Picnic, a ~67 mile mountain triathlon:

  1. Bike 23 miles from Jackson’s town square to Jenny Lake
  2. Swim 1.3 miles through the center of Jenny Lake
  3. Climb to the summit of Grand Teton (8.1 mi, 7200 ft gain).
  4. Reverse the climb back to the lake (8.1 mi)
  5. Reverse the 1.3 mi swim back to your bike
  6. Bike back to Jackson’s town square (23 mi)

Shan, Cat, and I got a couple hour head start on Chris for the hike. He caught up to us by the time we got to the Lower Saddle. And by that time Shan and I started feeling altitude sickness (at 11.6k elevation) and had to stop and head back down while Chris went for the summit. He took the Owen Spalding route, a 5.4 line through a couple exposed sections and technical chimneys.

Chris flew by us again on the way back down. EQ ran dauntless support on the lake while high winds blew him a mile off course during his second swim. Then he had a bike breakdown just 9 miles from the finish line, but somehow made it work and pushed on. He went on to finish in 20 hrs 15 min. We welcomed him at the Jackson Town Square with burgers and fries and listened to mind blowing stories from his day.

Chris’s fitness hasn’t surprised me for some time, but his completion of the Picnic was something to behold. I was so proud of him for putting in the work and effort to be able to pull this off, and then absolutely smashing it when it came time to perform.

Wyoming Roaming;

The rest of our Wyoming trip involved relaxed stays at Ten Sleep Canyon and the town of Lander. Some highlights:

August; Finding Solace in the Cascades;

Many of my friends have been on an impressive trajectory with their climbing. I’ve seen their technical skills, mental game, strategy, tactics, and a host of other factors all improve in a remarkable manner since the time I’ve known them.

My foray into Mt. Stuart last year seemed to inspire some of them, including Shan. I was touched by the idea that I could spark such animus. But, I knew what something like Mt. Stuart demanded, having been through quite an epic out there. Yet I also knew how rewarding it could be. So I devised a plan to tackle a series of objectives in the North Cascades that would serve as preparation for Shan as well as growth in our partnership. We spent nearly every summer weekend questing up various adventure routes and spires.

Highlights from these weekends:

August; Finding Gold in Colorado

I am very lucky for the friendships I have in my life. The richness they bring cannot be measured. Despite time and the distance, we pick back up right where we left off and laugh just as well about the same old stuff.

Highlights from my bachelor party weekend in Colorado:

September; Mt. Stuart, the Bamboozle of the Century;

One move at a time, one pitch at a time.

One hundred more feet down, one thousand more to go.

At the sharp end of the rope, a world of thought narrows to a simple stream. Find where my hand needs to go, and then my foot, and then my hand again. It’s a type of quiet that I struggle to find in most other circumstances. Long routes like the North Ridge offer a prolonged repose, a stillness in the mind to match the stillness of the land.

I sensed varying levels of calm among my companions. This wilderness had kept us for two nights now, one more than we had planned. We spent the first night at the foot of the mountain, and the second night on a ledge in the middle of the ridge. Some of them winced from pains collected over the last three days. Yet they carried on without complaint, unabated. I admired their grit. I knew that we still had a lot of climbing until the summit. And then there was the long way back to the car. All we could do was keep moving.

The Great Gendarme stood just ahead, and it held the crux of the ridge line. Our packs weighed heavy on our shoulders, and our capacity for leading had grown thin. So we schemed a plan where only one of us would have to lead the two crux pitches: I’d leave my pack behind, climb the pitch, fix the line, and the others could follow on micro traxions while I hauled the packs on another line.

Midway up the gendarme was a small, exposed pedestal that saw little reprieve from the bitter shade. I thought of the last time I stood here, socked in an icy storm cloud, focusing all that I could on ignoring the pain of the cold. This year we had the fortune of the sun. Favorable weather would free our mental energy for other difficulties.

The watch tower beckoned. The crack ahead was too wide for my hands, so I balled my fists in the rock and pulled. I glimpsed the distant glacier below, awaiting me as I screamed through improbable, insecure moves. And then the others followed, unbeaten by their exhaustion nor their fear. And so the Great Gendarme let us pass, satisfied with our efforts. And I returned to my rhythm.

One move at a time, one pitch at a time.

Another hundred feet down, six hundred more to go.

“We need to keep moving,” I whispered to Shan, “We’re almost there.”

She was giving everything she had. The weeks of alpine training prepared her just enough. We moved together as one along the ridge line, supporting and protecting each other. Our friends Jason and Rachel followed close behind, and Lucas and Liz not far ahead. Pat and Nick somewhere even further. A team of pairs with a shared purpose.

And at last, the summit. We made it safe, the most important fact. The brief reprieve allowed emotions to take form: relief, gratitude, surprise, admiration. And the view. Joy marked our selves as we stood among the Enchantments. Looking out at the land expanse, we were inconsequential. But a flash in the grand scale of this earth’s time. And yet, we were content. In our brief moment here, we each found meaning.

Hell, Year Five

This is the fifth year writing about my venture into Hell and back. Every one of those years has been more vibrant than the last, and 2022 was no exception. This time, I was accompanied by a literal fellowship of friends from Portland. I reflected on how Chris and Shan and I first trekked out to NW Arkansas on our own in 2017. Back then I could never have imagined the friendships and experiences that this sport would eventually bring.

Chris and I set our sights on 180 routes each in 24 hours. This was our goal for 2021, but I had to bow out of that comp due to injury. So, along with the covid year, it’d been three years since I’d been able to compete. Considering my growth since 2019, I was excited to give it a go.

Anticipation paved way to the big weekend. September was a wrinkle in time. As if the current of life swept us up and spit us out at the gates of Hell. Equanimity accompanied us as we entered the flow that the day demanded.

We are flashes against the rock. Sun hanging. Heat bearing. No matter, thirty routes logged. Muscles tightening. Humidity weighing, threatening, yet we press on. Sixty routes done. The canyon screams. Seventy routes done. Another roar. The hours feel like minutes, we are time blind. A cruel deception, for the day melts before us.

Time dilates somewhere after midnight. The sense of self blurs between slacks of rope and horns of stone. Insects ring ceaseless. Pain beats persistent. Look, this is the crux of the route. Retrace the way. This has all happened before. Stay focused. Listen for a take. Lower. Pull the rope. Climb. Repeat.

A concerted howl marks the turning of another hour, and the sky unfolds from the night. With the light of the dawn comes renewed vitality. Our bodies flow, unencumbered. We experience a freedom of expression as we glimmer across the canyon walls. One hundred sixty routes done. Two hours left. Keep going, quickly now.

And in a blink, we were done. Chris and I survived another year in Hell. We emerged with our goal in hand: 180 routes each, and 10th place out of 132 teams. We cycled through elation and surprise, and were reminded of our growth as a team.

My image of my self shifts: I am capable of more than I thought.

Conversely, I am hardly surprised by the feats of the rest of the crew, I was certain they had it in them. Here are some of those highlights:

Lions in a field of lions. Their spirits afire, soaring, and I was there to witness it.

October; Our Wedding;

Everywhere I turn I see beauty. I try my best to take it all in. It’s my attempt at tricking time itself into letting me stay here, in this moment. I stand by Shan, and together we revel in the bliss of the day.

It was a celebration of our love. A dream come true.

We had spent the last year hand-picking nearly every element that would go into this day. It was easy to imagine us overwhelmed with the amount of projects we had running in parallel. But we found comfort and excitement with each decision to be made together. We also received a tremendous amount of help from our family and our friends. Shan’s grandmother and mother poured their hearts into supporting us. I was overcome by the amount of love that came our way from the people in our life, both leading up to and on the day itself.

The florals accentuated everything they touched, their colors danced along to the gentle strings of music. We asked a musician to play some of our favorite songs during the ceremony. It took place on a small river isle, “Thunder Island”. The Bridge of the Gods hung in the background, taking its place beside the mountains of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a special place for us. As if the earth had invited us to come see one of its favorite scenes.

We were surrounded by a glittering assembly of significant people from our lives. Souls that have danced with our own, our memories with each of them held immortal by the threads of time. Shannon was a vision in white. She was the music notes in the air, the waterfalls of the gorge, and the birds in the sky. I was lucky to have crossed her path in this world, and now we would travel alongside each other for the rest of our time here.

The warm glow of laughter filled the reception hall. Champagne flowed freely while our best friends told stories about our love. Florence and the Machine sung “Stand By Me” as we performed a bolero that we had spent many nights learning together. The dancing lit up the part of ourselves endeared to the expression of movement. Our musician sung “Lean On Me” while I held close to my grandmother on the dance floor. And then we were joined by our guests while Claire performed “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”. My groomsmen and I danced on our backs alongside memories of Grandpa. We even convinced the moon to join the party. The only light we see. Echos of our joy would reverberate from this night on through to the stars, our spirits tightly woven in a tapestry of love and song.

Our Honeymoon in the Valley

After our wedding, we traveled to Yosemite Valley and got some much needed rest. We spent many days at a spa resort near the park, and between periods of relaxing we ventured into the Valley. The granite giants lent us solace as they loomed over us. Their features and subtleties eclipsed our imaginations and left us to a simple wonder. Shan and I enjoyed a lovely cruise up Royal Arches 5.7 on one day. And on another day we took on the NE Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock 5.9+, an adventure that would again demand all of our strength and will. We were (just barely) fit for the cause though, and we endured. We concluded our adventuring that week with a casual romp up Cathedral Peak, topping out to the sun’s dazzling show of light across the alpine meadows.

November; Hueco Tanks;

After a few restful weekends, Shan and I felt we could go outside again. We joined Liz and Lucas on a plane to West Texas and spent a few days playing among the high desert boulders of Hueco Tanks.

Some thoughts I jotted about the place:

The mountains here are the ruins of fallen castles. We traverse the labyrinth of interlocking stone, spellbound. I think of the early people who once inhabited this place. They were sustained by pools of water that collected in the stone hollows. Their rock paintings preserve their spirit. Messages from another time. A connection from their mind to mine.

There are others here. Shield shrimp lay dormant in the pools, living fossils that have persisted since a time when the continents were one. We are careful not to disturb their sleep. Big horn sheep and jackrabbits show themselves, curious, while bobcats and horned lizards hide away for now.

We are eager and keen, for there is enough to explore here to fill a lifetime.


Bitenight 13a;

Perhaps the most important growth I’ve seen in my climbing over the years is my belief in myself. With every year, I made breakthroughs that would make me reconsider my idea of what was possible. I couldn’t be trusted! Any remnants of self-imposed ceilings I made for myself were finally shattered when I topped Bitenight, a 5.13a at Broughton Bluff. It was a climb that I was never sure I’d be able to do, right up until the week that I sent it.

Despite it being a new grade for me, in a way it helped to blur the concept of grades in climbing. It seems like much less of a ladder of achievement where I am constantly chasing a perceived success by reaching a higher rung. The grade of a climb is more like an indicator of the potential amount of effort and the experience offered in return. Higher grades demand a higher focus, and more time to learn what the challenge is asking of oneself. It therefore helps to uncouple this from a concept of “success” or “fail” and rather focus on the experience and the opportunities for learning.

That said, I put a lot of learning and effort into the experience of Bitenight. I continued my training with Lattice over the year, and focused on bouldering through much of the year. I spent nearly 97 days out, and logged 619 pitches and boulder attempts.

I improved on my strength, tactics, beta selection, and my mental game. I also picked projects that made logistical sense for me. Broughton Bluff offered many of these, since I was able to make it out to the cliff frequently. I learned so much from my time with Heart of Darkness 12c, Bad Omen 12b, Manson Family Reunion 12c, among plenty of other lines. I learned so much from the crew of people that I climbed with over the year, they instilled joy into every part of the process.

December; Exploring Arizona

To round out the year, we hit the road again to spend time with our family for Christmas. Shan, my grandma, and I left from Portland, narrowly missing an ice storm that froze over Portland and most of the country. We drove through the night and made it to Santa Barbara just in time to be there when Billy proposed to Christina on the beach. We spent quality time with family and friends, and then I made my way to Arizona for adventure with more friends.

Highlights from my December:

Media Highlights

Things to Think About for 2023

  1. Embrace my creativity

    I didn’t make time for any physical art medium last year. I’m aiming to change that for 2023, as the images swimming around in my mind are begging to be expressed. I read quite a bit of the Climbing Zine last year, and am looking forward to practicing for my own submissions to their publication. I’ll continue pursuing my photography and videography. We also recently realized a lot of musical potential in our group of friends, so I’m excited to see some performances, and also join in on the fun!

  2. Get my mind right

    In much my writing, I make mention of the pains that I live with. I realize this has been a long struggle, and I’d like to make more sense of it in the coming year.

  3. Continue trying hard in climbing

    I’d like to improve on my fitness, and get back to running. I’ll likely stay more local for climbing in 2023, to save some cash for…

  4. Eurotrip!

    Shan and I are planning on exploring Paris and Fontainebleau, then meeting up with Lucas and Liz and exploring the Alps!

  5. Yosemite

    I’m excited to get back to the Valley. I’m planning to stay there for a couple weeks and climbing as much granite as possible.

  6. House!

    If our finances line up right, we may be in a potential to finally own our own home by the end of the year. Super excited about that.

I’ll end this post with a few more of my favorite photos and moments from 2022:

Heart of Darkness

Jason on Black Magic

Engagement photos by Taylor Denton

Liz on Crimson Chrysalis

Chris on Yin and Yang

Bad Omen

Springtime witch

The Steamboat Captain

Zion at Smith Rock

Wild Iris

Eldorado Canyon

Meow Wolf - Convergence Station

Matching bat tattoos with Shannon, by @smallbirdsbutalsolargerbirds

Mt. Stuart crew

Alan on his birthday at Smith Rock

Loren on Count Chalkula


Broughton crew





Send Train

Royal Arches

Moonshine Roof

Improv nights

Art nights

Music nights

Cabin nights

Billy and Christina


Pat on Endgame

Whips and Falls Compilation 2022

Ryan Westby

Ryan Westby

Coder, climber, artist, 21st century ghost

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